Court decision means legal battle over catering continues

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The legal battle over catering at the Jamesport Manor Inn was waged by neighbors in 2004.

The prolonged legal battle between Riverhead Town and the the Jamesport Manor Inn over catering at the Manor Lane restaurant will continue.

A New York State appeals court this week overturned a 2010 lower court ruling that ordered the town to process Jamesport Manor Inn owners Matt Kar and Frank McVeigh’s application for a catering facility on their Jamesport land.

“We were successful in that the judge’s default judgment ordering us to process the application has been set aide, but our motion to dismiss the action was denied, meaning that the case goes forward,” said town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

John Ciarelli, the attorney for Mr. Kar and Mr. McVeigh, said, “this whole case was decided in 2007,” where the same judge ruled on an earlier challenge filed by neighbors over a town Zoning Board of Appeals decision allowing catering at the Inn.

“This has been going on for five years that the town has been trying to frustrate the development plans of my client,” Mr. Ciarelli said.

The Kar-McVeigh group had challenged an Aug. 27, 2009 town Zoning Board of Appeals ruling denying their application to construct a temporary tent or a permanent 4,072-square foot barn on the four-acre property for catering. The ZBA denied the application on the grounds that the applicant deliberately failed to post a hearing notice on the property in order to get another adjournment, a charge the Inn owners deny.

State Supreme Court Justice Peter Cohalan in Sept. 2010 rejected a town motion to dismiss that case, but the town appealed that ruling.

In a Dec. 2010 ruling, Judge Cohalan ruled that the town had to process Kar-McVeigh’s application and set a public hearing on their site plan application within 30 days, and he ruled that “the proposed catering facility represents a permitted, incidental and customary accessory use to the permitted restaurant use and that a special permit is not required for such catering facility.”

He also said the town failed to abide by the 2007 ruling he made on the lawsuit challenging a 2004 ZBA ruling that allowed Kar-McVeigh to have catering, though only in the main building. That decision pertained to a lawsuit filed by neighbors, which ultimately was decided in Kar-McVeigh’s favor.

The Dec. 2010 ruling, meanwhile, was appealed by the town, which delayed the implementation of the judge’s order to process the application.

Now, the appellate division, in a decision rendered Tuesday, ruled that Judge Cohalan erred in ruling that the town had to process the application before the town’s appeal on the motion to dismiss was decided. But a separate appellate division decision also rejected the town’s motion to dismiss.

All of which means the case will go back to state Supreme Court for a ruling on the original question of whether the catering use is permitted.

“We now go back to court to argue the merits of the case,” Mr. Ciarelli said.

The original Jamesport Manor Inn building may have been built as far back as 1750, according to historians. Mr. Kar and Mr. McVeigh were in the process of restoring the old building when it burned to ground in a 2005 fire. It eventually was rebuilt to resemble the original structure.

Prior to the fire, historians thought the building was built around 1870, but evidence discovered after the fire led to them to believe it was built much earlier than that, according to Richard Wines, the chairman of Riverhead’s landmarks preservation committee.

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